Best of the South Island
New Zealand plays host to some of the most incredible natural wonders you’ll ever experience.
From towering snow-capped mountains to rugged coastlines, hauntingly beautiful fiords and majestic glaciers; prepare to be awe-struck by the beauty of the South Island. This comprehensive itinerary is full of exciting experiences and an array of unforgettable landscapes.
Some of the highlights included are:
- Visit the iconic Lake Tekapo
- Cruise beautiful Milford Sound
- Sample New Zealand’s finest wines
- Cruise the Tasman Glacier’s terminal lake
- Whale watching in Kaikoura
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- International flights
- 19 nights in our bestselling 4-5* hotels
- 20 days car hire
- Milford Sound Cruise with lunch
- Alpine Vista - Scenic Helicopter flight
- Blenheim half day wine tour
- Whale watching in Kaikoura
Need to know+
- Arrives: Christchurch International Airport (CHC)
- Time difference: GMT+13
- Visa requirements: British passport holders do not require a visa
- Language: English and Maori
- Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
- Flying time from UK: around 27 hours
- Plug type: 3-prong flat blade plug
- Voltage: 240 volts/50 cycles
Fly from UK to Christchurch
Collect your hire car from the airport and set off to your first stop: Christchurch. After settling in, spend the rest of your day at leisure. Watch as the historic trams wind their way through the city, enjoy a ride on a punt and glide along the attractive Avon River before enjoying sensational shopping at The Tannery and delectable cuisine in one of the many up-and-coming restaurants.
Lake Tekapo is approximately three hours’ drive south-west of Christchurch at the northern end of the idyllic Mackenzie Basin. A place of wondrous natural beauty and striking landscapes, the area boasts remarkable turquoise waters framed by New Zealand’s Southern Alps. A leisurely stroll along the lakeshore to the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd will yield breathtaking views and photo-ready vistas.
Aoraki Mount Cook
Take in the scenery around towering Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,734 metres. Here, you’ll cruise the terminal lake of the striking Tasman Glacier, keeping an eye out for icebergs. Other ways to appreciate the surroundings include mountaineering, heli-skiing and scenic flights, or you could head to the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre and try a stargazing experience at the world’s largest International Dark-Sky Reserve.
Come down to Oamaru’s seashore in the evening and experience it’s star attraction – the little blue penguins that come waddling back to their nests after a hard day’s fishing at sea. This adorable parade is a wonderful wildlife spectacle that’s sure to be a highlight of your South Island adventure. The penguins may be cute, but don’t miss walking around Oamaru itself, where fabulous colonial architecture, antique shops and second-hand book stores grace the streets.
Founded by Scottish settlers, Dunedin is known as the ‘Edinburgh of the South,’ and it certainly mirrors its Scottish counterpart’s charming small-town feel. Surrounded by impressive hills and situated at the foot of a long picturesque harbour, Dunedin is home to some of the best collections of Edwardian and Victorian architecture in the southern hemisphere. Gothic spires, ornate mansions and magnificent harbour views make this city one you’ll remember. While you’re here, don’t miss a drive along Otago Peninsula – the views of the rugged coast are truly spectacular. This area is also home to some of the most incredible wildlife, including the world’s rarest penguin colonies, seals and the Royal Albatross.
No itinerary to New Zealand’s South Island is complete without visiting the towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls of Milford Sound. The pretty town of Te Anau will be your base for discovering this stunning region. Your journey includes a Milford Sound Cruise experience where you’ll enjoy one of New Zealand’s quintessential experiences admiring the spectacular views and spotting the abundance of wildlife including seals, penguins and dolphins.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by majestic mountains, Queenstown is famous for its iconic scenery and its huge range of outdoor activities available for all ages. From walking and biking trails to skiing, river rafting, horse trekking and everything in between, you’ll never be short of things to do in Queenstown. While you’re here, spend time exploring the Central Otago region just outside of the city. As the city ends, the scenery unfolds before you and if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, this is where you’ll find many of the Middle Earth locations.
Wanaka, a small town that sits on the tranquil lake of the same name, is a laid back place. Admiring the spectacular mountain scenery is the main activity here, or perhaps setting off into the wilderness of Mount Aspiring National Park. In town, the National Transport and Toy Museum has plenty to entertain the little ones, while older children will love the intriguing optical illusions and the mystifying maze at Puzzling World.
Franz Josef is one of the most visited glaciers in New Zealand, and for good reason. This stunning natural phenomenon is a 7.5-mile-long glacier which descends to less than 300 metres above sea level and is surrounded by lush rainforest, making for an incredible sight. Marvel at the glacier up close and gain an appreciation of the workings of nature on a glacier hike or take a relaxing stroll through the valley to its icy face.
Punakaiki is best known for its bizarre rock formations, the intriguing Pancake Rocks which look like a giant stack of pancakes, and the Punakaiki Blowholes, which squirt seawater high into the air, much to the delight of observers. Punakaiki is also a good base for exploring the wilderness of Paparoa National Park, either by kayak, on foot or on horseback. There’s also a glow worm cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites to discover.
Pretty Nelson is just a stone’s throw from the delights of Abel Tasman National Park, where you can explore the lush landscape of sandy bays and thundering rapids by kayak or on foot. In this region, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and canyoning are all popular pursuits, as is looking out for the colony of friendly fur seals. Lord of the Rings fans can take in a raft of local Hobbit hotspots such as Rivendell, Dimrill Dale and more.
Pretty Marlborough is most famous for its wines; in fact, over 90% the country’s famous Sauvignon Blanc is produced here. Visit some of the 40 local vineyards in and around Blenheim on a wine tasting tour, sample the vintages and learn more about wine production. Perhaps buy a bottle or two to take home as a souvenir. And don’t forget to try the tasty local artisan food while you’re here as well
The next stop on your itinerary is the peaceful town of Kaikoura – the perfect area for spectacular wildlife encounters. Kaikoura’s most famous residents are the marine mammal – whales, dolphins and fur seals grace the waters year-round. Whale watching and dolphin cruises run from the town throughout the year and offer you the chance to get a closer view of these beautiful creatures – you may even have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. For more information about pre-booking your experiences, please speak to your travel consultant.
The natural beauty of Hanmer Springs is best appreciated with a relaxing wander among its pristine lakes and rivers, filled with trout and salmon. For true relaxation, soak yourself in Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, a soothing complex of natural hot springs, mineral pools, sulphur pools waterslides and steam rooms, where you can treat yourself to a massage or beauty treatment.
Your trip comes to end back in Christchurch where you’ll have one final night to look back on your fabulous adventure.
Depart Christchurch and return to the UK
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